The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has gone rather viral. You’ve probably seen the videos on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or the online social media site of your preference. I’ve also seen some people pointing out problems with the challenge, as well as people who are just flat-out sick of seeing everyone dumping icewater on their heads. (Though how anyone could get tired of that…?)
As I understand it, the original challenge was that if you were called out, you were supposed to either donate to the ALS Association, or else you could dump a bucket of icewater on your head. Alternate rules are that you either donate $100, or do the ice bucket and donate $10.
I want to address some of the points I’ve seen raised.
1. A bunch of people messing around and dumping icewater on themselves doesn’t do anything to raise money or awareness, or to help people with ALS.
It’s certainly true that some of the videos and postings don’t specifically talk about Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. I’m sure there are a lot of people who have watched the video or joined in the icewater-dumping without ever having a clue why this all started.
On the other hand, the ALS Association has received $88.5 million in donations as of today, August 26. During the same period last year? They received $2.6 million.
In other words, the ice bucket challenge has raised more than $80 million in funding to for research and assistance to people with ALS. My understanding is that a great many people dumping icewater on their heads are also donating to the ALS Association.
I do wish more videos and posts would focus on the goal of raising money and awareness for ALS. And yes, maybe not everyone is donating, and maybe some people aren’t getting the point … but a lot of people are. I’ve seen a lot of people posting and talking about their own experiences with the disease as a direct result of the ice bucket challenge, and the financial results are about as indisputable as you can get.
Yeah, it’s a goofy fundraiser. (Says the guy who fundraised in 2012 by doing goofy cover poses.) But it’s also damned effective.
2. The peer pressure and shaming element is uncool.
I admit, I have an instinctive response to people tagging and challenging me online, whether it’s the ice bucket or blogging about a particular thing or whatever the fad of the week might be.
I got tagged for this one a while back, saw the icewater-dumping thing with no additional information or context, and said nope. Delete and move on.
I see this as a case-by-case thing. Some people have been very cool about “inviting” instead of “challenging” others — a small difference, but an important one, I think. Others have refused to tag anyone at all, and instead suggest that anyone who’s interested should jump in. And I’ve seen people emailing or checking in behind-the-scenes to ask before challenging someone, which is cool.
Short version on this? Don’t shame people for saying no, or for not answering at all. Some people don’t have a dollar to spare. Others choose to support different causes. Don’t be an asshole about it.
If you’re one of the people bullying and shaming others as a part of the challenge? You’re actually discouraging people from participating. Knock it off.
3. It’s physically dangerous.
I’ve seen several references to an article titled “Ice Bucket Challenge Sees First Fatality?”
Forbes has a follow-up with more information and discussion. There’s also a false report of a girl who broke her neck doing the challenge.
Is it dangerous? It’s hard to say whether or not Lancaster’s death was caused by the challenge, but it’s possible. The ALS Association notes, “The Ice Bucket Challenge may not be suitable for small children, the elderly, anyone in poor health, or animals of any kind, so please use good judgment.” The trouble is, we human beings aren’t always known for our good judgment. There’s also the temptation to crank it up a notch to make a more dramatic video. Author Patrick Rothfuss went with a tub full of dry ice.
I don’t have an answer on this one. It seems to me that the risk is minimal … but that yes, there may be a potential risk here. My daughter was tagged by her cousin, and if she chooses to do the challenge, I’d let her — but I’d also make sure it was supervised, and that she’s only using H20 ice.
4. It’s clogging up my newsfeed!
Welcome to the internet. Use your Mute and Block buttons. Or go look at some cats instead.
While not perfect, I see this as a surprisingly effective fundraiser for a good cause, one that’s raised an impressive amount of money as well as some awareness, and also produced some fun, entertaining videos. I’m also reconsidering participating… But if I do, there will be no dry ice! I like my parts without iceburn, thanks.
August 26, 2014 @ 7:44 pm
There are some who avoid the ice like when they dumped the icewater on a figure of Stan Lee, rather than actually dumping icewater on the man himself. Pity there isn’t a Jim Hines action figure! (There should be! With extra joints for the ridiculous poses!) Or you could go the Patrick Stewart route and put the ice in a glass, add drink of choice and drink.
A friend who works for non-profits had a nice long rant about how great this is for ALS, and how every non-profit hopes for a video of theirs to go viral. Even something that gets a fraction of the attention this has can make a huge difference.
So what’s your favorite ice bucket video? I think I’m still stuck on Kermit’s, though I loved Neil Gaiman’s. And now I have to go click that link and watch Patrick Rothfuss!
Jim C. Hines
August 26, 2014 @ 7:49 pm
I hadn’t seen the Kermit one. Personally, I’m rather fond of Patrick Stewart’s. Though I admit I haven’t seen that many of the videos yet.
August 26, 2014 @ 8:10 pm
Yes, but have you seen MINE? (Spoiler alert: I’m very silly. And yes, I do mention ALS.)
My writer pal Alex, who nominated me, was kind enough to email me first and make sure it was okay. Of course, when I said “Hell NO” he then emailed me back a giant picture of a chicken…but I could still have said no in private and no one but him would have known.
The one specific person I challenged I also checked with ahead of time (and I didn’t use the few people I asked who said no). Of course, then I challenged all of the Llewellyn authors, but I figured the ones that wanted to would do it and the others would just disavow all knowledge of my actions.
August 27, 2014 @ 12:08 am
I agree that a fundraiser, no matter how goofy, is worthwhile if is raises money and awareness. To all those not crazy about the current trend, I’d say “Don’t worry. It’ll be over in five minutes anyway!” In the meantime, let’s do everything we can to support this great cause!
Except go the Patrick Rothfuss route. I admit that’s too much–even for me. *shudders*
August 27, 2014 @ 12:14 am
here’s why i don’t like it: it’s a huge and useless waste of water. you’re in a country where people’s water is being shut off because they can’t pay their bills in detroit and most of california is and has been in a severe drought, yet you’re popularising people dumping buckets of water on themselves and each other.
maybe it’s just because i live on the driest continent on earth, but i find the waste of hundreds of thousands of litres of water appalling, no matter how good the cause.
August 27, 2014 @ 7:22 am
“While not perfect, I see this as a surprisingly effective fundraiser for a good cause”
This is kind of my take on it. My one disappointment with it is that it feels like a real waste of water at a time when a lot of places are going through droughts. I wince at the thought of people who have trouble getting enough clean water to drink seeing us waste all that perfectly good water.
That said, I can’t argue with its results for ALS fundraising. I just wish people had found some other viral challenge to promote it.
August 27, 2014 @ 7:47 am
I saw a video of a lady sitting on her horse bareback in a bathing suit. She dumped the water on herself and the horse; the horse promptly spooked and bucked her off. Sheer stupidity – this is not suited for animals.
I just hope she didn’t get hurt.
Jim C. Hines
August 27, 2014 @ 8:02 am
August 27, 2014 @ 9:20 am
I have mixed feelings about the use of water for these challenges, given the situation in California at this time.
On the other hand, my mother died of ALS and (to use rather stronger language than I usually employ) it’s a stone cold bitch of a disease. It takes and takes, and once it takes something, you never get it back. I frankly don’t care what stupidity it has taken to get such an uptick in donations. I recognize that next year, donations will probably be back to normal, but when I think of the good that can be done with $80M, well, I am simply not going to argue with that.
August 27, 2014 @ 4:58 pm
Perhaps the answer to the water shortage argument is that people should stand on grass or dirt- the water will then go into the ground, and eventually into some aquifer or another.
August 27, 2014 @ 10:40 pm
I agree with a lot you’ve said here. I groaned when I was challenged, because I did feel pressure that I should participate, but I have had ice water dumped over my head (long story, I was working at a circus arts camp and they would do things like that). I had a really nice earache from the experience. We also have limited funds since my husband lost his full time job. I thought about it, gave a (very) modest amount to charity, and set up a video where I juggle ice and water balloons. I do mention who I gave to as well (Team Gleason–I like what they do). I don’t know whether anyone I challenged will do it, I’m not going out of my way to tell them I did, but if they asked me if they have to I would just tell them no.
August 29, 2014 @ 1:27 pm
The Old Spice Guy’s ice bucket challenge is one of the funniest I’ve seen. I don’t know if I can link, but it should be easy to google.